After everything is said and done, when we ask ourselves what is meaningful and important to us- many of us can answer that the quality of our relationships is important. Bad relationships, conflicts within relationships, and hurt is pain in our relationships is very distressing.
Dr John Gottman is a psychologist in Seattle who practices and teaches with his wife Dr. Julie Gottman his theory of relationships throughout North America. I love to explain how he studied and developed this theory, because his colourful and fun nature is so evident in the language he chose to describe his studies and findings.
For over 35 years he studied relationships in his “love lab” at the University of Washington. This was a study that was conducted over a long period of time. While he observed people in their relationships he categorized their behaviors as he asked the questions: “What is it that makes relationships last? What are the people who are staying together doing differently from the people who are breaking up?”
Dr. Gottman separated the couples into to groups; the group that had relationships that were long lasting were referred to the “masters” and the group that had relationships that ended quickly were called “disasters”. Through his observations of the Masters and Disasters he was able to describe very specifically what the Masters were doing that kept their relationships healthy, meaningful, satisfying and long-lasting. He also was able to identify and describe actions and behaviors of the Disasters that lead to relationships being frustrating, painful, and short lived.
The theory of sound relationships and the method for his counselling of couples has been based on this research and focuses on four very practical things:
1. helping partners increase their understanding and respect for each other
2. increasing awareness of behaviors that are “disasterous” in relationships
3. teaching new behaviors that allow partners to be “masterful” in relationships
4. plan for shared meaning
The structure of couples counselling has been redefined by Dr. John Gottman and his wife Julie Gottman as the therapist is no longer a referee to partners solving their deeply distressing problems. The therapist is now a facilitator to exploring how partner’s relate to each other and a coach to trying new ways of communicating and healing. The benefits of this are long lasting as the skills are brought forward with you to solve problems on your own long after therapy has been completed.
If you are interested in more information about this kind of therapy for your own relationship please visit my contact page to call or email.